(Sept. 20, 2013) A 94th Street house erupted in flames last Sunday afternoon, charring part of the building, melting one car and threatening nearby buildings, as firefighters from Ocean City and Delaware faced an inferno that sent up a massive column of smoke visible for miles.
The blazing three-unit townhouse complex, which was directly across the street from the new Ocean City Art League headquarters, was mostly lost except for some areas protected by a sprinkler system.
No one was home at the time and there were no injuries, but owners were left to sift the ashes early this week for whatever personal items were spared.
“Thanks to their response and the hard work of the volunteer fire department, I have some things that can be salvaged,” Kristin Joson, owner of one of the three units, said in an email. “We have a long road ahead to rebuild but no one was hurt.”
Joson, who works for the Charles County public school system, is also a member of the Ocean City Beach Patrol and writes the popular beach safety column, “On Guard,” for this newspaper.
Ocean City Communications received the call for the bayside fire around 2:25 p.m. Sunday. Firefighters arrived on scene to find the building in flames.
Witnesses said the fire started on the exterior of the building, quickly consuming the vinyl siding and front porches before spreading to the attic. Automatic sprinklers in the occupied floors of the house helped keep the fire at bay until firefighters arrived.
“My unit survived the most and the sprinklers definitely helped,” Joson said. “I’m pretty amazed.”
Staying with an aunt in Easton, she has been returning to her 94th Street home to go through debris.
“It looks like we couldn’t possibly find anything in that house, but I actually found my jewelry box and some Christmas ornaments I just bought,” Joson said.
When she opened a torched dresser, she found her clothes, damp from the sprinklers. Most remarkable, she said, was uncovering an intact Ocean City Fire Department T-shirt.
“It was just so amazing to me, because I’m standing in the middle of my bedroom knee deep in ashes,” she said. “The fire department just did an amazing job.”
Joson first heard about the fire on an unusual weekend off work, while watching the Solomons Offshore Grand Prix boat races with her husband.
“I got a call (from a coworker) so I knew it was important,” she said.
Eventually, family and friends in town confirmed that the fire was in her home, and her daughter texted her a picture of the flames.
The owners of the two other townhomes in the building use them as vacation homes and were not present when the fire erupted. Even Joson’s dogs were out of the building, she said.
“It was empty, and that’s really unusual,” she said.
Since the blaze, members of the Beach Patrol and others in the resort have reached out to help, she said.
“Everyone’s offering to help … I appreciate all the support of my Beach Patrol friends and my town of Ocean City friends,” she said.
Still, she has a lot of work left sifting through debris and arranging other details, such as insurance claims for her melted car and relocating salvaged items to a storage unit.
“All in all, I feel like I’ve been handling it okay. It’s a big project ahead of me,” Joson said. “It’s just beginning, really, I think. It’s a long journey.”
The cause of the 94th Street fire was still under investigation at press time. Anyone with photographs or video of the fire before firefighters arrived is asked to contact the Ocean City Fire Marshal’s Office at 410-289-8780.